Welcome to Getting Granular

The podcast where digital marketing experts from the agency Granular talk about the latest trends, tried and true best practices, and share their unfiltered thoughts about the digital marketing industry.

PPC Origins: Ian Segovia


Ian Segovia of Team Granular jumps into the recording booth to share his background in digital marketing and how that led him to specialize in paid search. Ian also dishes on his thoughts on the landscape of paid media and how it’s progressed over the years. We also chat about his particular areas of focus and how he landed at Granular.


What you’ll learn in this episode of Getting Granular:

  • How Ian started his career in blogging and video
  • The path Ian took to learn more about paid media
  • What the past, present, and future of paid media looks like
  • What keeps him engaged in the paid media field
  • How he maintains work life balance in the PPC space
  • His views on machine learning and AI coming into the field
  • Ian’s approach to client relations and how he handles reporting


Introduction: Welcome to Getting Granular, the podcast where digital marketing experts from the agency, Granular, talk about the latest trends, tried and true best practices, and share their unfiltered thoughts about the industry. Whether you’re here to learn how to grow your business, improve your digital skills or just want to hear some Midwest PPC experts rants about digital media, you’ve come to the right place.

Matt: Welcome to the Getting Granular podcast. My name is Matt Freter. I am the marketing operations manager here at Granular. And today I’m joined by Ian Segovia. He is another member here at Granular, part of the PPC team. We’re going to be continuing on with our interviews with people from the Granular team. Ian has been at Granular for how long?

Ian: I’m coming in on my three year anniversary.

Matt: So three years at Granular, which is just about almost the entire lifetime of the company, give or take a couple of years there. And not only has he been here for a lot of the time, he is my kind of arch nemesis when it comes to ping pong.

Ian: I like to think I’m at the top here at ping pong. But I think Steve would disagree, but you know, we’ll settle it.

Matt: Yeah, we take ping pong pretty seriously around here. That’s kind of our game of choice. So, Ian, why don’t you kind of tell us about your story of how you got into the PPC space?

Ian: Yeah, so I mean I kind of fell backwards into it. That year after college, if you don’t really have a job lined up right away, can be kind of hard to find anything. So that summer after I graduated, I was actually working for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, the Brewers’ single A affiliate, just doing a lot of camera work for them. But what I also started doing that summer and going into fall was I started doing a lot blogging for this now defunct Milwaukee Bucks blog. But that’s important because the guy that ran it, he actually worked at an agency here in Milwaukee. His name is Jeremy.

Ian: And I was up in Appleton, Oshkosh, Fox Valley area at the time. And just the thought was, “Maybe I can make it to Milwaukee, there will be some more job openings there.” I got the opportunity by talking to Jeremy. They had an internship and what was nice is it was a paid internship at his agency to do specifically paid search. And he was able to get me in, gave me a pretty good reference there. And yeah, that was pretty much the start of it.

Ian: And the place I went to, it had a really good crash course tutorial. I had plenty of other people to check my work. But that was, yeah, pretty much how I got into paid search. From there, I kind of worked my way up from internship into a full time job there. And then bounced around from place to place for a little, until I got here to Granular, which is pretty much been where I’ve been at the longest so far.

Matt: So your story is not too uncommon. People fall into the PPC space, they just kind of start doing it, or they get a job, an internship, and you’re like, “Okay, hey, you’re going to do this.” So did you have any prior experience in it before you started that internship?

Ian: I had marketing experience before, working with the Timber Rattlers and an internship that I had with the Department of Transportation here. I worked on some video projects and some marketing projects for those. But nothing specific to digital. Everything I was doing until that point was still more like traditional media and digital wasn’t even on my radar.

Matt: So let’s dive into that learning process. So you come into this internship, you’re going to be doing pay-per-click. What was your first kind of reactions to that and how did that learning process, what did that kind of look like for you?

Ian: I mean, the first thing that they kind of have you do is you just learn the vocabulary of the business. And I’m sure that’s the same for any specific industry. There’s this very specific lingo. And then if you’ll us talk about, like in our larger team meetings, if you hear us talking about paid search, someone that isn’t familiar with it will have a hard time picking up what we’re talking about.

Ian: So I guess for the really the first two or three days it was like a slight confusion, just working hard to pick stuff up, prove that I’m not a bit of a fool or whatever. Yeah, I think really the first initial stage was picking up the vocabulary, picking up the processes and all that. And that’s kind of what I struggled with most to begin with.

Matt: How many years total have you been working in the PPC space?

Ian: I’ve been working about six and a half, seven years at this point. Started like just a couple of months out of college. So I started around when I was about 22 and a half, still plugging along as I’m heading into 30 in May.

Matt: Looking back at you started six some odd years ago, can you talk about what the landscape of PPC, paid media, paid search looked like and how it’s kind of changed into what it is today?

Ian: Honestly, in a lot of ways that it looks the same, because when I first started, Google had a thing where we were able to separate out every campaign between desktop, mobile, tablet. And they were like, “Nope, we’re going to combine all the devices into one.” They did that for two or three years. And then after that they’re like, “Well, we kind of messed up there and we’ll just go back to the way things were.”

Ian: So at least specifically with like ad words, at least in my mind, they’ve kind of just rolled back a few changes. And then besides that specific change, there’s a lot more automation. Really, back when I first started, the biggest automation you could do was just with bid rules or scripts, and Google was just starting to push out the conversion optimization bidding. Now they’re pushing out machine learning with not just bidding but also writing ads. So there’s a lot more of that.

Ian: And also now we’re pushing way more social now. Before when I first started, everything was really just … It was really just Google and Bing, and Yahoo to a much lesser extent. And at the companies, like the first company that I worked at, social wasn’t even on our radar and thinking about audiences wasn’t even really on our radar. So everything was still focused on just keywords, ads, stuff that I would consider really basic stuff now.

Matt: Yeah, that’s funny. We always hear people talking about, “Okay now there’s all these audiences and now there’s all these different ways to target.” And then everything gets so segmented and it gets a little bit overwhelming. So when you’re looking at PPC, you fell into it, you got an internship, you’ve been working in the field for a while. What keeps you working in the field?

Ian: Well, what keeps me working in the field is that I feel like I’m pretty good at it and I’m able to work pretty quickly and get things done, and feel like it gives me a lot more time to pursue a lot of stuff that I like to do out of work. There’s times where I have to take my work home, just have to get stuff done. But ever since getting into paid search and even getting even more so in Granular, I’ve felt that I can have a really good balance. I’m really just able to live my life outside of there and just maintain normal work hours.

Ian: I’ve seen a lot of … So I used to work at Kramer Krasselt, which is just down the street from here. Worked there for maybe nearly two years. And I mean, I was really on the paid search side, did a little more digital there, but I would always see, like when I was heading out, I would see a lot of the traditional media people still staying there. And even like maybe I’d bring my mom in or my girlfriend in to just see the office during the week and I’d still see creatives and stuff still working on the clock. And it’s just not something I think I’d be as happy with. So a lot of the flexibility here and it keeps me coming.

Matt: Hey, it helps to be good at your job.

Ian: Yeah.

Matt: You can show up, you can be good at your job, you can make your clients happy, you can make … You can give them the best results and then be able to pack up, go home, live your life and come back and do it all over again. That’s always a good sign.

Ian: Yeah. And I’m just … Okay, like maybe one of my clients might not listen to it1 or maybe they will. But I would say with nearly all my clients are very nice, pretty chill people, that they’re not ones to really bother me too much on the weekends or late at night unless I’ve made a major screw up, which has happened before. But I mean I think my client book in particular, I don’t know about everyone else’s, but they’re some excellent people to work with.

Matt: Looking at the future PPC, there’s a lot of changes. You kind of touched on AI coming in and a lot of machine learning. What other trends do you see and what are you kind of excited about coming into the industry?

Ian: As we’ve talked in meetings and stuff, people have been pretty skeptical about a lot of the machine learning and the AI. And I have been as well, but as I’ve been thinking and as I’ve been slowly implementing it, I’ve kind of liked that change in a bit. I think it just involves more strategic thinking and it also gives me more time to think about some of the business aspects of my clients.

Ian: Like before a lot of this came in, I always felt I was talking too much about paid search and my clients wouldn’t necessarily care too much about this. But as I’m implementing more stuff, it’s working out all right. And it’s giving me more time to talk with my clients and think about specific aspects of their business and not spend all my time going through 2000 cells in Excel. I think I’m still pretty good quick at that. But there’s really no way to go through a couple thousand cells there without it taking while. So I like some of that AI stuff and it giving you more opportunity to think strategically.

Matt: One question I always like to ask anybody that manages PPC on kind of a daily basis is how do you reconcile the fact that Google knows all this information about you, or Facebook is tracking everything? Because there is a little bit of squeamishness, or people feel uneasy when they think about someone working in paid search, or, “Google knows all this stuff about me. I’m not really comfortable with this.” What’s your kind of take when when you hear something like that?

Ian: I personally, I really don’t have much of a social media presence any more. Like I have a .. The only reason I have a Facebook now is I have an ongoing chat with my fantasy football league that I can’t be left out of. Other then that, I really don’t participate in any of it. Probably the most insight Google gets into me is just, I guess they can look at all my emails and they can see my searches.

Ian: It’s just a matter of if you’re participating in a lot, in social media, you’re participating in Google a lot, and you’re always having to be the first person in for the new tech trend, I think it would be a little naive to not be aware of it and to not be thinking about it, that all of these companies are tracking you and to not be aware that this is kind of their main way of making revenue.

Matt: Data equals money.

Ian: Yeah. So I think it’s more like the more you’re going to participate in the tech culture, the more you should be prepared that they’re tracking you and they’re watching you. I think that’s something you kind of have to accept with regards to them as private companies.

Matt: I recently deactivated my Facebook account because I don’t need it anymore. I don’t go in and manage accounts or anything like that and I was like, “I don’t need it. I don’t use it. It’s a distraction.” And my girlfriend last night was like, she was like … Because I’ve had a deactivated for like a month now. And she was like, “I find it weird that you don’t have a Facebook. Are you hiding something?” Or just kind of being like crazy girlfriend about it.

Matt: And I was like, “Listen,” I was like, “I used to manage seven different actual social media accounts for clients and create content for them. I’ve spent more time on Facebook than you probably ever will and for the rest of your life. I’m just so sick of it and that’s what it is.”

Ian: Yeah.

Matt: And I keep hearing it more and more of people that work in the industry, they’re like, “I just want to get rid of social. I have it there on the side. I stay up to date on the ad stuff.” But when it comes to like actually participating, most people are just kind of like, “Yeah I’m done.” Because you just spent so much time on it or so much time in there.

Ian: Yeah. I mean you reminded me of the other important reason why I have Facebook is because I need to manage accounts in it, which I didn’t even think of there. But just another thought is that like … I mean I don’t know the back end of like on Facebook’s side and how much they’re active. Well first of all, there’s no individual guy following you around, and I can’t see the names of individual people coming in, like you’re all-

Matt: Your one FBI guy.

Ian: Yeah. I don’t know if that exists but it’s kind of weird incredibly impersonal it is, because even at the lowest, you’re managing groups of a thousand some people. I’m not just trying to target Tony in Chicago with this pizza ad here. I think maybe people are thinking that it’s a little more devious than it is.

Matt: Yeah. It’s not as exact as what we all think it is. You’re right, because when you are doing like a Facebook ad, and you might be like looking at one DMA, or one city, and then you’re drilling down to like, “Okay I want to go after bridal.” So you’re selling wedding dresses. And you can go in Facebook and find out people that are newly engaged, because they put that on there, but that’s still going to be like thousands of people. So it’s kind of like, “Eh, it’s not that creepy.”.

Ian: Yeah. I mean there … I mean have you seen the Fyre Festival doc?

Matt: Oh yeah.

Ian: Yeah, I mean there are some people that are going to just use it to take advantage of people. But that’s … I mean I think that’s all industries. In pretty much all walks of life you got to just keep your head on, your wits about you, and just kind of look out for yourself and make sure that people aren’t taking advantage of you. And digital marketing is the same. On our end, we do it ethically. We’re not trying to run any schemes for clients. I mean a lot of our clients are just like HVAC companies or colleges. So we’re not thinking anything crazy to do for them.

Matt: HVAC and education. I mean we do more than that, but you’re right. We have a lot of just regular businesses or people that are B2B and they’re looking to just draw leads, find more leads, and in turn more revenue. That’s all they’re looking for.

Ian: Yeah. And we have a festival. We have Summerfest. But Summerfest isn’t trying to run something crazy like Fyre Festival.

Matt: Yeah, they actually have like an infrastructure.

Ian: Yeah.

Matt: No, Summerfest is an awesome client to have. So this is kind of a good segue into talking about clients. So everybody on the Granular team, we have a good mix of clients, B2B, eCommerce, all that kind of stuff. Can you talk about your kind of approach to kind of managing your clients?

Ian: So I’ve actually made a lot of changes recently with how I’m managing clients and how I’m managing myself in the past few months. And it’s really kind of improved, I guess, my relations with clients for the most part. It’s kind of improved my productivity I think. I mean it’s nothing that’s like revolutionary for anyone. I’m just taking the time to be more organized, like setting up something called Base Camp that we have, setting that up and just using it to follow up with clients more, just sending a few more emails.

Ian: And I used to have just this huge running, ongoing task list, and then I’d mark things, and then it ended up being like … Because over the last three years, that thing ended up being like a couple thousand cells of how I was keeping track of it. And now I just, I got rid of it and I just keep a weekly sheet, because it got way too hard to manage, and it was kind of like how I used to manage everything.

Ian: I was always like, “Yeah, really segment everything.” And I was really like, “Yeah I’ll just do it all manually. I can do it better than whatever.” But then it just became too much for me to do. I just had to think to myself, “Well, I’m shooting myself in the foot. I got to really pare everything down, strip everything down.” I had to look at how am I managing things? How am I managing myself? How am I managing things internally? I used to always do things like, “I’ll do this and then I’ll follow up on it two weeks later.” I was like, “That’s too much.” I added one negative keyword. Why am I putting down a note to follow up on this later? That’s ridiculous.

Ian: So instead of keeping things in Excel, I moved everything into Base Camp, moved some of my client relations stuff into Base Camp. Some clients I like on their separate Slack, so I talk to them through there. I guess my philosophy right now is to just keep everything simpler, keep everything really simple because I was making things a lot harder and too segmented for me to really manage. And that’s helped me a lot.

Matt: Simple is good. That’s good to hear because it’s kind of like the let me take care of myself so I can then take care of you. The more organized you can be as an account manager, the more more organized, the more pointed, the more concise you can be working with your clients, that’s a perfect example of I just made two little updates that are going to be good. You don’t necessarily have to go give them an update on small stuff. They’re probably busy. They want to check in once a month and know what’s going on and you do keep them informed. I like the idea that you’re kind of using Slack for some of your other clients, because we use Slack here internally. It’s great, but I know you can kind of like link into other company’s Slack channels. So that’s cool. I haven’t heard of anybody doing that yet.

Ian: Yeah, that’s more of the client’s ideas because they’re just like, “Well we use Slack for everything.” So they just have me join their Slack.

Matt: At Granular, outside of just managing paid media accounts and pay per click accounts, a big thing is reporting and analytics, ROI. That’s kind of the kind of un-sexy part of PPC. But it’s something that we really care about. We care about the data. Our slogan is, “Data driven digital marketing,” so it’s always about data for us. What’s your kind of personal approach to data analytics and and kind of reporting ROI back to your clients?

Ian: I’m on our internal reporting slash analytics team here at Granular, along with Jason and Justin. I don’t know if you’ve talked with them about some of that stuff. But with Jason and Justin, and Jordan has worked on it a lot too. We’ve just been working on like on the main Granular report and kind of what goes out to people. And we’ve really been trying to pare it down, like what’s essential. What do you actually have to show the client? Do you have to show them these huge spreadsheets? Do you have to give them a 20 point PowerPoint?

Ian: We’ve settled on a one page thing for Google and Bing, another page for Facebook or whatnot, and and just keeping it simple and just really trying to get the client to focus on exactly what is important. I’ve had clients where we’ll talk about quality score or something. That’s something that we used to have on the reports here. But what I found personally, and what a lot of people found, is that some clients would focus way too much on quality score. Like, “Oh no, our quality score is two.” And then you’re like, “But your cost per lead is way beyond the goal.”

Ian: And if we’re … Do we really need … And Google’s telling us that the landing page needs to be better because it has a low landing page quality score, but your landing page has a 10% conversion rate. It’s like, “So do we really need to improve it or is what Google telling us just not worth our time?”

Matt: Yeah, it’s really easy to look at the wrong metrics. If you’re an eCommerce company, you want to care about revenue and conversion rate and you want to focus in on what section of products is doing well, what isn’t doing well, how can we make it better? If you’re a B2B, you’re looking at, just like you said, “Okay, I want people to come this landing page, fill out a form, contact us, get into our sales cycle.” So yeah, I think that’s a really good point of like, “Okay, what does this client need to care about? What KPI really matters for them?”

Ian: Yeah. So it’s like getting to those important KPIs, but also is just keeping … Not hiding click through rate or cost per click or stuff and using a lot of the other metrics that are things that I guess we would care about a lot, because they’re things that will indirectly affect what’s actually important, and not hiding those and using them as ways to help educate clients. That’s kind of walking a fine line because like you talk about a little bit, just to educate the client, but then they think it’s really important. So then they focus everything on there. So it’s just trying to walk a fine line there.

Matt: So in the show notes I have here, we were talking about some of your specializations. And we have down B2B, lead gen, and working in the higher ed space. What have you learned working in those verticals?

Ian: When I first started doing a lot of B2B work, I mean it was stuff that I hadn’t even thought about. I mean I was only like 23 or whatever, so I was an idiot. But it’s like, “Well of course someone has to make like the safety mats. Someone has to make the conveyor belts.” So it was like a, “No, duh,” moment there for me. With B2B, it was kind of like learning a bit more about the importance of audiences a bit, because as I had talked to a lot of B2B people, they don’t even know what their customers even search for. And the customers sometimes don’t even know that they should be searching for something.

Ian: I have a client that does a very specific type of technical and security audit, and the vast majority of people that are in their market don’t even know that they need it. So I’ve been pushing a lot more social media, a lot more audience stuff on them, because you just have to get the people that at least fall within there. And then from there, you start educating them on like the different values, why you have to go with the company, why you should do this specific audit for them. In a way, it’s helped me really understand the market, the marketing funnel more. You just have to be able to get in front of people, bring them in. And then after the fact, once you get them aware that they even need the product, you get them aware of the company, why they’re better, and then you get to sell them.

Matt: Thanks for listening to the Getting Granular podcast. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out on any of the PPC tips, tricks, or news from the digital marketing world. This is your host, Matt Freter, and thanks for getting granular with us today.